Ramadan 2009: Part 5

After the jump, you can read Eboo Patel’s current newsletter about how a Jewish and Muslim college student teamed up to make a difference for needy people in their community, and brought along a lot of their college students in the process.
Their endeavor reminds me of a parallel initiative among Christian pastors who decided that the best way to honor the birth of Jesus was probably not by buying additional luxuries for luxury-saturated friends and relatives. They came up with a creative alternative that more and more churches are joining to support. Maybe yours? You can read about the Advent Conspiracy here.

From Eboo Patel of Interfaith Youth Core:

The holy month of Ramadan begins this weekend. Every year during Ramadan, my usual routine is disrupted – in the best possible way. It is a time when I remember that my day doesn’t need to revolve around satisfying my impulse for a cup of coffee. It is a time when I remember that the center of the universe is something larger than I know, and my day instead revolves around reading more, praying more, and spending more time with those whom I love.
Ramadan is also a time of service, and I’d like to share one of our favorite Ramadan service stories with you all.
Meet Rachel Berkowitz and Nadeem Modan. Rachel is a Jewish student at Wesleyan University, and alumna of Interfaith Youth Core’s (IFYC) College Fellows Alliance. She is friends with a Muslim student, Nadeem, another IFYC Fellows alumnus. When he was an IFYC Fellow, Nadeem organized a Fast-a-thon on campus during the holy month of Ramadan to promote understanding and service. One year later, when Rachel was a Fellow, she built off Nadeem’s event – and the insight she gained from their friendship – and organized an interfaith Fast-a-thon during Ramadan.
The event engaged not only a quarter of the campus (800 students), who fasted for a day and donated their meals to a community soup kitchen and food pantry, but also the broader Middleton, CT community. The local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs skipped lunch at their meetings for one week and donated the money they saved. Several members of local churches and faith communities did the same. Through this initiative, Rachel and the campus’ interfaith leaders raised $11,300 for their local pantry.
These students made it clear that this event is about appreciating the shared value of service between religious traditions and acting on it together. Nadeem says, “The Fast-a-thon is a perfect demonstration of interfaith in action. I’m not okay that our neighbor is hungry, and neither are you. Let’s do something tangible about it together.”
This year, Rachel and Nadeem are organizing the third fast-a-thon at Wesleyan – and it looks like it will be even bigger than last year.
What excites me the most is that projects like this are happening all across the country. There are hundreds of Rachels and Nadeems working across faiths to better their campuses and their communities.
You can meet inspiring young people like Rachel and Nadeem in person at our upcoming conference, Leadership For a Religiously Diverse World. Check out the article below for more details. I hope to see you there!